In a moving message shared with audiences Thursday at the Catalyst West conference held at California-based Mariners Church, Passion Movement founder Louie Giglio recounted his traumatic bout of depression and how he recovered by being still and trusting in God.
Giglio, whose annual Passion Conferences has hosted nearly a million university students since 1995, recalled his emergency room visit after he fell ill one night in the fall of 2008. His symptoms were baffling. "I'm 50 years old and I can't feel my face," he told an emergency room attendant. "My legs are convulsing, and I can't breathe!"
It was a dark period in the pastor's life and his symptoms went on for months. "[For] four months I was in a pit …," he told attendees of Catalyst West, a next-generation leadership conference. "I had these symptoms unlike I had experienced or ever heard about before."
For a while neither Giglio nor his doctors knew what was wrong, and he underwent brain scans and heart tests to try to identify his illness. It was finally determined to be depression, which Giglio says can manifest itself " … in a myriad of different ways." He believes those unusual symptoms he experienced were the signs of a "nervous breakdown."
In the throes of his health crisis, Giglio wondered if he would ever be well again. "I wondered if I was ever going to go to work again … I had this huge question mark over my life." If the Passion City Church pastor had been asked to imagine himself speaking at Catalyst West, he would've replied, "It would be easier for me to ride a bike to Mars."
Giglio said that during his illness he would sing to himself all night. "Be still my soul," he'd sing. "There is a healer, his love is deeper than the sea … his mercy is unfailing … "
The pastor's deliverance did not come right away, but he kept on singing. "In time, that song pierced the darkness … Thank you Jesus for leading me back into the light."
God helped him to recover.
Giglio stressed to Catalyst West attendees that God is bigger than any problems they may experience, and used the beauty and wonderment of nature to further prove his point.
The pastor shared his experience of the very first time he saw the Northern Lights, an occurrence where electrically charged particles from the Sun enter the Earth's atmosphere and collide, resulting in colorful rays, curtains and clouds of green, pink, red, yellow, blue or even violet that appear in nighttime skies.
Giglio and a group of friends he had recently met had been dining at a restaurant one night when they dropped everything, jumped into their cars and raced to an ideal location to view the open sky. At the time, Giglio had no idea of what they were doing, but it turned out to be a night he would always remember.
"I will never forget it to this moment … the whole sky just lit up neon green!" Giglio was in utter awe, and he reminded the Catalyst West audience of how wonderful and powerful God is. "There has to be a moment when we are awakened to wonder."
He reiterated that God says, " ... 'Be still, and know [that I am God]... ' I can turn the sky into a light show … " Christians must believe God for all things. "There has to be a moment when we take God at His word."